PC Specialist Apollo Q930GTS desktop computer - Review

PC Specialist Apollo Q930GTS desktop computer - Review

A fast and extremely quiet computer at a bargain price

Pros: Quiet; good graphics performance; great-value package

Cons: Small power supply; Q9300 not as fast as the cheaper Q6600

Bottomline: You get a lot for your money with this PC and it runs whisper-quiet as well

Price: £999

Manufacturer: PC Specialist

The Apollo Q930GTS arrived with a 3.5cm dent in its side.

Dealing with careless couriers has become a part of everyday life in our labs and it serves as another reminder that you should check PCs thoroughly before accepting the delivery.

The PC includes Intel’s new affordable quad core, the Core 2 Quad Q9300. It has a 1,333MHz front-side bus (FSB), which means it can be fed data at a quicker pace than Intel’s previous CPUs with 1,066MHz FSBs.

We hoped for high numbers in our benchmarks, but scores were a pinch lower in our CPU and memory tests than Intel’s older quad cores.

Intel’s Yorkfield (Q9000) quad cores are dual cores stuck together. On the Q9300, each pair of cores shares 3MB of L2 cache, giving 6MB of L2 cache in total. This compares poorly to the 8MB of L2 cache present on a Q6600 and means the Q6600 is faster despite having a slower, 2.4GHz clock speed.

The Q9300 is good at overclocking. Adding an extra gigahertz to it is feasible, just not in the Apollo Q930GTS, because PC Specialist supplies a standard Intel cooler. We’ve seen Intel’s cooler fail on overclocked systems, but it is fine for general use, keeping the CPU’s temperature to 45°C during testing.

Graphics are handled by an Inno3D 8800GTS graphics card. Nvidia has muddied the waters with its naming schemes recently - there are now three types of 8800GTS. The first two, available with 320MB or 640MB of Ram, are based on the older 80nm G80 chip with 96 stream processors.

The new 8800GTS, used here, is based on the 65nm G92 chip with 512MB of Ram, 112 stream processors and higher clock speeds. In a nutshell it’s the fastest 8800GTS graphics card while consuming less power, and will make gaming at the 22in LCD’s native resolution (1,680x1,050) pleasant. We recently praised this monitor, an LG 226WTQ, for its attractive looks and thin bezel, but noted its 3,000:1 contrast ratio was a gimmicky addition.

A 500GB hard disk and 4GB DDR2 Ram (two 2GB 800MHz Corsair sticks, leaving two slots free) ensured it scored top marks in PCmark05. PC Specialist installs a 32-bit copy of Vista Home Premium that can only see 3.3GB, so it may be worth upgrading to 64-bit Vista (£10 extra) to get the full benefit of the Ram.

The Asus P5N-D 650i-based motherboard serves the system well, containing a big copper heatsink on the chipset and a spare PCI Express slot. The copper heatsink ensures this is the quietest system we’ve tested in a long time.

The motherboard offers half the bandwidth (x8 operation) to graphics cards in SLI mode, so upgrading to a second card isn’t ideal. Power draw ranged from 128W when idling to 220W when pushed and, as power supplies are never 100 per cent efficient, the 450W supply may be a liability with multiple graphics cards.

Excess cables aren’t hidden behind the motherboard tray but tied in a bunch inside the main compartment. The fascia uses three silver, textured circles that light up blue when turned on. The weighty metal front door, which clicks firmly into place, gives it a quality feel, and there are no fewer than nine USB2 ports available. A wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse and 5.1 Creative surround-sound speakers make this a well-balanced system.

We made a shopping list of components present in the Apollo Q930GTS and we couldn’t build it for less than £1,000, making PC Specialist’s system outstanding value for money.